By Sally Barnes
We all look forward to the day when we can find the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and emerge to celebrate that it’s finally over.
History tells us that after previous plagues and pandemics (the bubonic plague of the 14th century, the Spanish flu of 1918), there were public celebrations, orgies, drunkenness, and dancing in the streets.
I expect that our generation’s celebrations will be somewhat tamer with most people just praying for a return to the old normal.
Spending sprees are predicted for those fortunate enough to have saved or benefitted financially during the past year while so many others lost their jobs and businesses and struggled just to pay their rent and feed their families.
Research shows the public yearns especially for a return of restaurants and bars and cultural activities like movies, live theatre, and sports events.
Unfortunately, we should brace ourselves for a lot of change and the reality that we may not recognize ourselves or anyone else—especially those who claim to be our grandkids and great grandkids and whom most of us haven’t seen in person for so long.
Some stores, restaurants, and gathering places we have patronized for years will be gone. Friends who have become hermits in recent months may have to be dragged kicking and screaming from their homes.
Kids will have grown like weeds and will have to learn that it’s okay to hug people and have fun in parks and at birthday parties. Old people will have let their hair grow greyer, become more wrinkled, and suffer from more maladies than when all the confinement and isolation started.
In this age of telemedicine, you don’t want to know how many diseases and cases have gone undiagnosed and untreated and the tests and procedures that are on hold and will be backlogged for a long time.
If you ever get to see your doctor in the flesh again, he or she will have changed, too. As we grow older, our health care providers always seem to get younger but they, too, have taken a beating in this crazy, virtual, pandemic-stricken world.
Women, forced out of the labour market by the tens of thousands, will have to claw their way back and restore the previous gains that were made on this front.
Even our dogs and cats, grown used to people being home all the time, will suffer separation anxiety when some workers return to offices and shops. Get ready for a spate of ads and stories about how to deal with the psychiatric needs of abandoned pets.
My guess is that not many of us have improved in physical appearance or temperament these past months. The coming out party may not be a pretty sight. Over these past months, masks have protected us against the virus and they also covered up more flaws than we care to admit.
If your hair seems thinner, you’re not alone. My hairdresser confirms experts’ warnings that hair loss is a common byproduct of the pandemic. It has long been known that hair thins during periods of stress and anxiety and restoration is possible but it’s a long and arduous process. Beware the charlatans and products that suggest otherwise.
My dentist confirms another form of collateral damage that has become increasingly common in recent months. Stress and anxiety turn people into grinders, resulting in cracked or broken teeth.
I’m one of those who need a mouth guard for protection overnight as my fogged brain replays another Netflix serial killer thriller watched just before bed or reruns the usual worries over family and friends that reach a fever pitch about the witching hour of 3:00 a.m.
Chances are you and your friends have packed on a few pounds. Weight gain has become epidemic as people work from home or obey stay-at-home edicts and the fridge and cookie jar have replaced workmates and friends as needed comfort and encouragement.
Many have turned to baking and cooking as a new hobby. At one point there was a shortage of products like flour and bread-making machines in our stores.
I’ve socked on a few pounds just looking at the photos and videos sent almost daily by one friend who has morphed into Julia Child and now turns out Michelin-star delicacies with the same je ne sais quoi that I use to whip up my special du jour wieners and beans.
It could be a boon to the clothing industry when some shed their sloppy track suits and try to squeeze into their old wardrobe for a return to the workplace or social scene. Buy stock in firms catering to what the fashion industry likes to call fuller figures. You may have noticed an inflationary trend in those figures. The low 20s used to be considered badass big. Now they just keep adding the number of Xs in front of the L for large. It all starts simply with XL and by the time this pandemic is over you are a three XXXL general!
It’s a dietitian’s nightmare to observe the lockdown trend to takeout food—much of it of a fast-food variety—loaded with salt, sugar, and other nasty ingredients linked to conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Food stores are kept busy restocking the shelves of favourite junk foods.
Chances are you have been eating more and exercising less. Better weather and safer conditions will be a godsend for people who want and need to enjoy the great outdoors and smell the roses and pet the dogs.
As surely as the pandemic lockdowns battered our economy and our workforce, there will be those who will find enterprising ways to profit from our eventual return to freedom.
Remember all those clever face masks that have been created and sold for profit or to raise money for charities?
Some smart entrepreneur will come up with creative name tags so when we emerge from this tunnel we can identify lifelong friends, mothers-in-law, and grandkids, and the merchant down the street.
Hang in there. A lot has changed this past year. Accept that some things will just never be the same. Including ourselves.
Sally Barnes has enjoyed a distinguished career as a writer, journalist and author. Her work has been recognized in a number of ways, including receiving a Southam Fellowship in Journalism at Massey College at the University of Toronto. A self-confessed political junkie, she has worked in the back-rooms for several Ontario premiers. In addition to a number of other community contributions, Sally Barnes served a term as president of the Ontario Council on the Status of Women. She is a former business colleague of Doppler’s Hugh Mackenzie and lives in Kingston, Ontario. You can find her online at sallybarnesauthor.com
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